The Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art

kemper xsm

The Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art  

Located just a short walk from the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art sits another gem of a museum, the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art.  The Kemper, as it is fondly referred as, opened in 1994 and as its name describes, specializes in contemporary art.  It is Missouri’s first and largest contemporary art museum.

The Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art is part of a larger cultural campus that includes the Kansas City Art Institute and the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.  Like the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, the Kemper Museum of Contemporary art presents compelling visual art to the Kansas City community free of charge. 


The co-founder of the museum, R. Crosby Kemper Jr.,(1927-2014) gave these inspiring words about art,  “My joy is to be surrounded by beauty, and what is more beautiful than great art?” He and his wife Mary “Bebe” Kemper donated the first 320 works that formed the basis of the permanent collection,  The museum’s collection has grown tremendously since it opened and it continues to grow.

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The museum’s dramatic architecture was designed by Gunnar Birkerts and features 4 galleries surrounding an atrium,   The grounds around the museum include several wonderful sculptures including Spider (1996) by Louise Bourgeois, Crying Giant (2002) by Tom Otterness and The Architect’s Handkerchief (1999) by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Brugge.

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The museum’s permanent collection boasts art by Deborah Butterfield, Stuart Davis, Janet Fish, Grace Hartigan, Hung Liu, Frank Stella and Wayne Theibaud to name a few.  In addition to the permanent collection, the museum also hosts wonderful visiting exhibitions.  Recent exhibitions include Magnetic Fields which featured abstract works of art by female artists of color, The Outwin: American Portraiture Today which featured portraits from the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, a retrospective of the works of Cuban printmaker Belkis Ayon and Rashid Johnson’s: Hail We Now Sing Joy.


For the past five years the museum has been hosting an annual atrium project featuring the art of a Latin X artist.  The atrium currently features three, bright, large-scale portraits by Aliza Nisenbaum of individuals connected to the Kansas City salsa music and dance communities.  This exhibition is titled: Aqui Se Puede (Here You Can).


A delicious restaurant, Cafe Sebastian, featuring the artwork of Frederick Brown and the delightful Museum Gift Shop, round out this lovely museum.  Take time to make the short commute from the Nelson-Atkins while you’re in town for the National Docent Symposium. You’ll be glad you did! 


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